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Orkney day trip - suggestions needed

Hi all,

My boyfriend and I will be spending 4 days in Orkney in mid-June and I am trying to plan our itinerary. We've arranged to rent a car and will be staying in Kirkwall. We're going to spend a day looking at all the neolithic sites and we also possibly want to visit the Highland distillery. We'll also be there during the Orkney arts festival which I'm sure will be great. The big draw for me is the neolithic sites so I'm really looking forward to do that.

But I'd like to do at least one day trip and am tossing up where to go. I have heard good things about Westraak tours for Westray but also would really like to visit Hoy. I've had a look at the ferry terminals and it looks like there is only one ferry out in the morning and another one back in the afternoon/evening. Is this right? Also not sure how common ferries are at weekends, so am thinking that the day trip may have to be on a weekday (we're there from Thursday to Sunday).

Also, I'm very, very keen to see puffins and have heard that Westray is good for that - westraak do evening puffin tours but it looks like that won't work for us with the ferry timetable.

We have three and a half full days so I think we can probably only manage one day trip - but am happy to be corrected!

Also very interested to hear about any out-of-the way, 'can't miss' things in Orkney  - I think I'm pretty well on top of the main sites.

Thanks so much in advance! Any ideas re puffins and day trips particularaly appreciated.


  • HorizonsHorizons Member, VisitScotland Ambassador ✭✭✭✭
    Hey @cmillar I've done the Hoy daytrip taking the ferry from Stromness (and not Kirkwall). It would be great if you can take your car onto the ferry, check with Orkney ferries. I'd personally do one of the islands that have a direct ferry from Kirkwall (Westray, Sanday or North Ronaldsay) but that is only because I have already visited Hoy :smile: On weekdays, there is 1 ferry into North Hoy (10 AM from Stromness) and 2 options in the evening (4:30 PM, 6:15 PM) to come back.
    I'm Anirudh, an Indian travel blogger who has explored a lot of Scotland by public transport. My blog. Find me on Facebook | Instagram

    Best of Scotland in 1 week itinerary (fully by public transport)

    My Scotland travels (includes EdinburghSkye, HarrisMullArranOrkneyLoch Lomond, Islay, Oban, DunoonSpeyside)

  • JWGJWG Member ✭✭
    Hi @cmillar if you visit Orkney Ferries website it now has the summer timetables available then if you click on published timetables then scroll down you will see the summer timetables which cover the dates of your trip. If you are taking your car with you to Westray or any of the outer islands it is advisable to book. Westray is certainly the best island for seeing puffins. There are a couple of sites on the Orkney Mainland at Marwick Head and the Brough of Birsay where puffins are also sighted but Westray has the largest colony. Be aware that the Brough of Birsay is a tidal island so is only accessible during low tide, you can get the tide times from the local VisitScotland I Centers in Kirkwall and Stromness. There are two ferries which go to Hoy a passenger ferry from Stromness to North Hoy and a car ferry which goes from Houton in Orphir to Lyness in the south of Hoy. The North part of Hoy is popular with walkers due to the walk out to the Old Man of Hoy you can find detailed information about walking if you visit the Walk Highlands website the South part of Hoy does also have walks but its main attractions would be The Scapa Flow Vistors Centre at Lyness and the Martello Towers & Longhope Battery. With your interest in History another island to consider would be Rousay it has several sites including Midhowe Broch, Knowe of Yarso Cairn, Taversoe Tuick. But as a rough guide allow a full day to visit any of the outer islands.
  • themerrydancerthemerrydancer Member ✭✭
    If you wanted to visit Hoy a car definitely gives you more freedom. You can take the car ferry from Houton (about a 20 minute drive from Kirkwall) to Lyness or the foot passenger ferry from Stromness to Moaness. There is a tour guide on Hoy if you would like to contact him about doing a tour.

    For puffins, Westray is definitely the place to view them. There is the Castle of Burrian which isn't too far from the ferry terminal, or Noup Head up in the north west of the island. There are some places on the Orkney Mainland where you can see them if you're tight for time (such as the Brough of Birsay which is a tidal island or Deerness out on the east mainland) but their numbers are not as great as on Westray!

    If your main interest is archaeology, you could make a day trip to Rousay, which is full of stunning archaeology. There is a regular ferry from Tingwall over to Rousay and you can either take a guided tour or take your car and have a great time driving around. It's not the easiest island to get around on foot, but you can hire bikes or take some across with you if you would like to see the island that way.

    Orkney Ferries have their timetables for Summer 2017 available on their website if you would like to check their frequency. At that time of year they also do a 'Sunday Excursion' where it visits a random island and allows you some time to explore. If you're having trouble deciding which island you'd like to visit, Orkney Ferries also produce an annual islands brochure with timetables and info on what to see and do on each island. The new one hasn't come out yet, but why not have a look at last years' one just to familiarize yourself? Who knows, you might end up choosing to go to another island altogether! You can view the brochure on the website that I linked to above. Click on "Orkney Brochure" at the left hand side of the page and it will open as a pdf file :) 
  • cmillarcmillar Member ✭✭
    Thanks so much everyone for so many helpful comments! I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed by choice but have lots of time to decide. Thanks again! 
  • cmillarcmillar Member ✭✭
    Thanks for your comments @themerrydancer @JWG @Horizons ! Just thought I'd let you know that we've decided to go to Westray and have booked a tour with

    Very much looking forward to it!

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